Shortly after Judge Parker was sworn in as federal judge, blacks
were recruited as Deputy U.S. Marshals working out of his court. Their
duties took them mostly into Indian Territory, and some worked as far south
as Texas, as far west as the Oklahoma Territory, and as far north as Kansas.
These African American men were of varying backgrounds–some had been born slaves
some were Black Indians, some were well educated, while others had little formal
The exact numbers of all the of the black U.S. Deputy marshals is not known
only because some had brief temporary assignments, while others had careers
that spanned several decades. All of these black men had one element in
common—they worked out of the Federal District Court of Ft. Smith. Most were
recruited by the presiding federal judge of the court----Isaac C. Parker.
This page is dedicated in honor of those black men whose names are forgotten
in most Ft. Smith circles–both black and white. Their work took them in and
out of Ft. Smith. Some died in the line of duty. Most were recruited shortly
after Parker accepted his post in Ft. Smith, and served during the years
between 1875-1900. These black men, helped develop the rich history of Ft.
Smith Arkansas, they helped bring law and order to the Territory, and their
contributions forgotten by most directly contributed to the settlement of the
To All Descendants of These Men:
Explore your family history, and share your legacy!
It his hoped that the many hundreds of descendants of these Black US marshals
will come forth, and share their family histories. For many the task at hand
is to learn the family histories, for many grandchildren, and great grand children,
have never heard of the legacy left behind by their courageous forebears. The
records exist in Ft. Smith at the federal courthouse in downtown Ft. Smith. Dust
off the covers of the old court records. Your tax dollars pay for the maintenance
of these records, and the records belong to the public. After 100 years, the time
to claim your history has arrived.
To the residents of Ft. Smith:
Teachers, students, retirees, visitors, residents----you are urged to look
more closely at this untold story of Ft. Smith's history. The colorful
past of Ft. Smith cannot be told without the stories of Bass Reeves, Ike
Rogers, Rufus Cannon, Grant Johnson and others. There are descendants
of these persons living right now in Ft. Smith, who probably do not know
of their ancestors contribution to Ft. Smith history. Ft. Smith has many
stories reflecting a true frontier spirit. For all of the courageous pioneers
moving westward for a new life—there were the many Exodusters—the black
migrants from eastern states going to the west, fleeing terror in the post
Civil War south. Ft. Smith was one of the many destinations. For the rich
legacy of what Judge Parker did for bringing order, his legacy would be thin
if not for the fierce tenacity and accuracy of Bass Reeves, John Garret, and
others, when pursuing an outlaw. It is a tragedy, that many of these persons
lie buried in unknown grave sites, with no honor wreaths or recognition begin
placed on their graves. The records of your ancestors exist at the National
Historic site in Ft. Smith. Visit the site!!! Become acquainted with your own
history! It lies there quietly with rich stories waiting to be told.